There's something about introspection and sadness that perfectly melds with country music. Take a six-string and three verses of someone's pain laid bare, and you might arrive somewhere special - a place where singer/listener form a bond of trust, tears, and healing. Hailey Whitters knows this more than most. Her 2015 release, "Black Sheep," contained one of the year's strongest self-penned tracks, "One More Hell." It's a devotion to her younger brother, who died in a car accident. Listening to it feels like a gut-punch and hug all at once.
On "The Days," Whitters collects six strong songs concerned about time - are we wasting it on pipe dreams or bad boyfriends? The opener "Ten Year Town" is vocally reminiscent of Kacey Musgraves. The listener might be reminded of that same raw honesty atop sweet singing the first time they heard "Merry Go Round." "Ten Year Town" could serve as an anthem to every dreamer artist still waiting tables or delivering pizzas, wondering if they always will be ("I didn't come this far/To only get this far").
Other standouts include the title track, which has a hand from our best working songwriter, Hillary Lindsay). Another winner is "Heartland," with all sorts of meanings given Whitters was raised in Iowa. The song fuses more of a fuller pop sound to the soul-searching lyrical mood. It's really not a gloomy-sounding record, even though Whitters doesn't shy away from things that don't go her way. "That's what I want to do with my music," she said in a 2019 interview. "I want it to say things." Say things she does, and remarkably well.